February 12, 2012

"How is it that activities we wouldn’t in a million years be roped into doing in real life... become strangely alluring online?"

"... paging through an acquaintance’s baby album, suffering through a relative’s slide show from Turkey...."
“I had to go on a vacation-photo diet,” admitted Laura Zigman, the novelist. “I had this bizarre, voyeuristic habit of scrolling through people’s travel photos online and then feeling like, Why haven’t I walked the Great Wall of China? And guilt: I should be taking my son to Spain. I don’t even like to travel!”
This feeling is kind of like nostalgia for a past that never existed. And it's really not just about the internet. You can feel nagged by envy for things you know you don't really want or you know aren't really the way the look in pictures. When I was younger, I used to look at TV ads for various products wielded by models who were great at feigning ecstasy. I wanted to be there, on the beach with those friends who are drinking Michelob and laughing at all the hilarious things they're saying to each other....

Oh, Facebook and Twitter are different. Those really are real people, but they're crafting an image. If they're any good at doing internet.

25 comments:

MadisonMan said...

I see people with their kids on exotic vacation and I think: What will those kids aspire to do when they get old? If you've been to Bali, or Tahiti, or walked the Great Wall of China as a teen, what do you do as an adult?

Freeman Hunt said...

I never feel the allure, and my Facebook feed often looks like a travel blog.

However, I bought the kids an old PBS documentary, David Macaulay's Castle, and he begins it by talking about running around old castles on summer holidays as a child. That made me imagine being a child and how much fun that would be, especially if one had read many stories of kings and knights and all of that. So now I'm determined that we'll visit some castles in a few years.

edutcher said...

Maybe because it's a fad?

Kind of like "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".

And I love the line, "Those really are real people".

We need to keep telling ourselves that.

rhhardin said...

How is it that activities we wouldn’t in a million years be roped into doing in real life... become strangely alluring online?

Rewrite without cliches.

It's the internet way.

Freeman Hunt said...

Judging from my Facebook feed, the more remote and godforsaken the destination, the higher status the travel.

Sorun said...

I recently created a Facebook photo album consisting exclusively of non-family group photos I was in. From kindergarten to present day. It's generated a lot of interest from family and friends. But I wouldn't try to haul out those photos when someone comes over to visit.

If you want people to look at your pictures, put them online.

Irene said...

Ha ha.

madAsHell said...

or walked the Great Wall of China as a teen, what do you do as an adult?

In my case, she moved to China with an Irish man.

John Burgess said...

I went to high school in Turkey--even graduated!--so my looking at my friends' photo albums of Turkey is something I do rather regularly.

chuck b. said...

I didn't like FB for several months after I first got on (at least a year before it became mega-popular), but I have limited it to people that I truly care about (it turns out there are 48 such people, not counting family), and I have come to enjoy it very much. I think people are using it better now, or at least things have become more conversational. To a certain extent, I would like people to put up *more* pictures.

Joe said...

I enjoy looking through photo albums IF they've been paired down. That's the problem in real life and online; too many people include everything with no thought for quality.

One of the mistakes I made while traveling as a young man was concentrating photographing things that were interesting in their own right, overlooking the mundane. The mundane photos are now some of my favorites since they bring back the richest memories. Having said that, the mundane photos still need to hold up as interesting artistically, otherwise they are snapshots with meaning only to the photographer and perhaps their companion.

ricpic said...

To be reconciled to the limited creature you are is to be only half way there; be happy with the limited creature you are and you're home.

--from the Sayings of Chairman Ricpic

Bob_R said...

The amount of control you have as a watcher makes a huge difference. I'll watch things on TV that I'd never go to see in a theater. I'll go through pictures on the internet that .... well if I was at Meadhouse and they brought out a Kodak carrousel projector and a screen and started showing me this blog I'd fake a heart attack.

Amexpat said...

Looking at someone's photos online as opposed to having them shown and described to you is not the same activity. One is being an active detective/voyeur perusing at your pleasure, the other is being a hostage to boring ramblings and boasts.

Henry said...

One of my best friends growing up belonged to a family that owned a slide projector and enjoyed showing you slideshows of their vacations and previous locales.

The difference between that and a Facebook album is all in the click rate. It is a geometric differential.

Even so, I don't really feel the allure to peruse the albums. Many of my Facebook friends are literary people and it is the epigram feed that I enjoy the most.

The two most intriguing photo collections among my friends are 1) a fellow who takes candids of his daily commute -- mostly of junk and derelict buildings and 2) a fellow who reposts media shots of industrial fantasies -- cloverleafs, assembly lines, skyscrapers, microchips.

Vacation shots are kind of boring, really, compared to that stuff.

LYNNDH said...

Freeman Hunt, a great vacation for castle visiting can be had in Wales. The castle of Edward I surround Wales, so you get to see history, and visit a great place.

Ann Althouse said...

"Looking at someone's photos online as opposed to having them shown and described to you is not the same activity. One is being an active detective/voyeur perusing at your pleasure, the other is being a hostage to boring ramblings and boasts."

If people are so boring, why are you interested in them?

Sorun said...

If people are so boring, why are you interested in them?

If my ex wanted a photo of something, she'd take ten photos to make sure she'd get one good one.

Then she'd show you all ten, one at a time, waiting for verbal acknowledgement on each before showing the next. That's a lot of work when looking at photos for an entire trip.

She's not boring, but it's boring.

RobH said...

Here are some vacation pics my grandad took.
http://bit.ly/ycwZJV

Carol said...

Most my friends do little but repost..sort of like the old people who did nothing with email but forward jokes and canards, with no comment of their own.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

My wife does this kind of thing.

"You can feel nagged by envy for things you know you don't really..."

This. Keyword; envy.

Guys don't do envy like gals.

jimh said...

I agree with Joe: travel photos are great as long as they've been pared down. I enjoy looking at the photos and comments of my friends when they travel, but I have no interest in clicking through dozens of unedited photos.

I was just overseas for a few weeks. Probably took a couple hundred photographs. Posted just one every day or two.

Freeman Hunt said...

LYNN, those were the castles the documentary focused on!

Amexpat said...

"If people are so boring, why are you interested in them?"

Observing people, even a boring person, usually has some interest to me.

People that I care about or usually find interesting can, at times, be a bit boring. I often lose interest when someone shows me their photos after a couple of minutes.

I find it more interesting to look at photos at my own pace and ask questions if the person is there, or ask and answer them myself if they are not.

ark said...

Because online, you can stop such activities at any time without offending anyone.